Kai puts cap on 5-0 U.S. shutout
The Kahuku and UH product scores the final goal in a win over Denmark
FARO, Portugal » Kahuku's Natasha Kai didn't take long to show off her skills for the U.S. Women's National Team.
Kai scored the final goal in the U.S.'s 5-0 win over Denmark in the Algarve Cup yesterday, becoming the 15th woman to score for the team in her first appearance. The last player to score in her first game for the U.S. was Shannon Boxx, who victimized Costa Rica in her debut in 2003.
"I feel honored," Kai told ussoccer.com. "Coming from Hawaii, it's a dream come true. I never thought I would actually have the opportunity to come here, but Coach (Greg) Ryan gave me that opportunity and right now I'm just happy for my team. It's not where I come from, it's who you play for, and I play for the U.S. and I'm trying to represent that well."
The 23-year-old Kai, Hawaii's first player on the U.S. team, was held out of the team's first game of the tournament, a scoreless draw with China.
"When Coach told me that I was going in in the second half, that's when the butterflies started, but it all went away after the whistle blew," Kai told . "I was a little nervous."
Kai's goal in the 71st minute came courtesy of a mistake by Danish defender Janne Madsen, who attempted to pass the ball back to her goaltender but saw Kai swoop in and intercept the effort. Kai then dribbled left and lifted a shot with her left foot that cleared Denmark goalie Heidi Johansen and settled just under the crossbar and into the net.
"I was going to push out toward the side (on defense), but I heard the keeper say something, so I figured that probably meant to drop the ball back because (the defender's) back was facing me and she had no idea where I was. So I just stepped in to intercept that pass and she passed it right to me," Kai said. "I took a couple touches and I saw the far post open, so I kind of bent it around. The wind kind of helped it because I thought it was going to go over, but the wind pushed it down a bit and inside, so I was stoked."
Heather O'Reilly scored twice and captain Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach also scored for the U.S. team in its largest margin of victory in the 13-year history of the tournament. The U.S. team only needs a tie with France tomorrow to qualify for the March 15 final against Germany.
Lilly's goal was the 108th of her career, moving her into sole possession of second place on the women's international scoring list behind former teammate Mia Hamm (158 career goals).
Wambach opened the scoring in the 26th minute, and 4 minutes later O'Reilly scored after Carli Lloyd's shot hit the post. Lloyd started her first match for the U.S. team.
O'Reilly picked up her second goal in the 31st after collecting a 20-yard pass from Lilly. The captain scored to make it 4-0 in the 44th minute.
"We had confidence, especially after Abby's first goal went in," U.S. coach Ryan said. "The goal difference is great for the U.S., and should help us get into the final if we play well against France."
In Group A, Finland and Norway tied 0-0; and Germany beat Sweden 3-0 with goals from Melanie Behringer, Petra Wimbersky and Birgit Prinz.
In Group B, France beat China 1-0 on a goal from Elise Bussaglia in the second minute.
In Group C, Ireland drew 0-0 with Mexico.